Monday, 14 March 2016

Burnt Offerings

"Burnt Offerings" (1976, Dan Curtis, Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA), Dan Curtis Productions) is a horror mystery film based in a sentient house.

Marian (Karen Black) and Ben (Oliver Reed) Rolf move into a 19th Century mansion for the summer with their twelve year old son, Davey (Lee H. Montgomery), and Ben's elderly, but spry aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis). They are renting the house from two elderly siblings, Arnold (Burgess Meredith) and Roz (Eileen Heckart) Allardyce, who are renting for a low price so long as the tenants agree to leave a tray of food for their elderly, reclusive mother in her private quarters three times a day but do not otherwise visit or bother her.

It seems like the perfect summer holiday with the house's sprawling land, swimming pool and pantry full of food... The Rolf's get to work tidying up the place and soon get it into a good enough condition to enjoy. However, as time passes the family begin to act strangely, exhibiting abnormal behaviour. They begin to grow distant from one another, not realising that each of them are being slowly harmed by the house and by their own behaviours.

I've heard the title of this film so many times in music and in passing and I saw the cast list and was so keen to see it. But, although I didn't dislike it, I did find this strange film to feel a bit miss-paced. It seems to take so long to get started! The film doesn't follow any particular horror tropes like its flashier follower, "The Amityville Horror", but it does boast a distinctly 70s era vibe that I enjoyed. It has large stretches where very little happens, however, and its big reveal feels a little too obvious for today's know-it-all audiences. The acting is pretty solid and the setting is ideal. The film is perhaps too subtle for me, but I did love Ben's creepy ghostly, grinning hearse driver hallucinations. He is definitely going to haunt my dreams.

[Image: P.E.A.]

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